Monday, April 16, 2018

Quietly—Corrib Theatre—SE Portland



A Rage of Silence

     This drama is written by Owen McCafferty and directed by Gemma Whelan.  It is playing at the New Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont St. (street parking only), through May 6th.  For more information, go to their site www.corribtheatre.org

     This seems like a familiar story throughout history and one that will continue ad nauisum, I’m afraid.  I wrote a piece on this subject of violence recently for a review and I believe it bears repeating, as circumstances are eerily familiar:
“Genocide has probably been around on this Earth, in one form or another, to wipe out and/or demean a race of people, since the beginning of Man.  Hitler and his boys were prime examples of that during the last century but they have had lots of imitators before and since then, e.g. the Crusades; our treatment of Native Americans and African-Americans; and continuous examples in the Middle-East, Africa, South America and Asia.  And the results of many of these efforts—cities reduced to rubble, death of many thousands of innocents, and resentment of other nations, as well as history.  What a prize!  As the folk song goes, “…when will they ever learn…?”
     
     And now we have the rift between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland.  The land of lore, of fairy creatures and leprechauns, seems to have dissolved “…into thin air.”  And what will continue is a game of one-upmanship in which there are no victors.  But, if we can’t have a definitive answer, then perhaps, taking one step at a time toward each other, quietly, on a small scale, will bring a harmony of sorts.

     And so, we have a meeting of opposing sides in a pub in Ireland in 2009.  One man, Jimmy (Ted Rooney), has come to his favorite pub in Belfast for a pint…or three.  The bar is run by an immigrant from Poland, Robert (Murri Lazaroff-Babin), which has its own set of conflicts, and which, he thought, he had escaped by coming here.  Interestingly, they are watching a football match on TV, between two countries in which a definitive victor will emerge…were it all that simple in the political/religious/social arena.

     Jimmy is waiting to meet someone, Ian (Tim Blough), from the opposing side, here and relive a painful memory of in their pasts of about 25 years earlier.  Will it heal old wounds?  Will a peace be accomplished?  We’ll see.    But a catharsis of sorts, possibly a redemption, might happen, but only if truth can be ousted and fists lulled into a coma.  Only when the infantile behaviors, such as sword-rattling and name-calling (which seems popular now with world leaders) is quelled, can there even be a beginning to a lasting peace.  Can’t tell you more or else I’d be a spoiler.

     All three of the performers are very powerful.  The quiet rage of Blough is palpable; the uneasiness of Lazaroff-Babin is quite evident; and the inward pain of Jimmy’s anguish speaks volumes.  Pain and hatred of these sorts are buried deep in one’s psyche and not easily rooted out.  But, unless people choose to live in fear their whole lives, someone has to start somewhere to heal the scars, to bridge the great divide.  Both the author and director seem to understand the subject, if not able to solve it, at least address it, which is a step in the right direction.

     I recommend this play.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Of Good Stock—Lyon Theatre—NE Portland




Life On the Edge

    This dark comedy is written by Melissa Ross and directed by Devon Lyon.  It is playing at the Triangle space, 1785 NE Sandy Blvd., through April 28th.  For more information, go to https://ofgoodstockpdx.bpt.me

    Eleanor’s line from “The Lion In Winter” seems appropriate to describe this play, when she’s talking about her clan, “well, what family doesn’t have its ups and downs.”  True enough for all families and this one seems to be laced with love, humor and a dose of spite.  It reminds me a lot of a play I directed some years ago, “Crimes of the Heart,” where you wanted to give them a good spanking sometimes but couldn’t help but love them.
    
    This family consists of Jess (Morgan Cox), the practical one and is the inheritor of their Cape Cod, family home, who has just gone through a serious operation.  Her husband of some years is Fred (Andy Sims), the ever-loving and ever-patient mate, a food critic.  They are to be joined soon by her sister, Amy (Kailey Rhodes), not the sharpest knife in the drawer, who is about to get married to her boyfriend, Josh (John Zoller), who seems more than a little nervous about this union.  Celia (Jamie Langton), is a bit of a tippler, who goes through men like water, will be arriving with her newest conquest, Hunter (Austin Hillebrecht), a down-home boy and a bit of a drifter.
There is another family member who hovers, unseen, over them, the specter of their Lear-like father, who was a famous writer, ruled his family with an iron fist and plowed through women like it was a sport.  During the course of the play secrets will be revealed, old wounds opened up, tears of regret and of joy shed, and new paths forged for a deeper understanding of friendship and love.  Family is never easy but having none is perhaps harder.  My favorite scene was the infamous F-bomb encounter with the girls—priceless and delivered perfectly by pros. 
    
    Really can’t tell you more without giving away discoveries an audience should make.  But, trust me on this, the Author certainly knows Family Gatherings, so you just might catch yourself identifying with parts of it and them.  And Lyon is an actor’s director, pacing the show at a break-neck speed at times with over-lapping dialogue, then lets a lull settle in for quieter moments.  And what a cast he has delivered to us!  They are priceless, especially the ladies, and so convincing I thought I was intruding at times on a real family’s outing.
    
    The fellows are also good in their roles, letting us in on those man-cave mentalities of guys when they are bonding.  But it’s really the ladies, show, folks, and they are outstanding!  Jess is the obvious choice for the “head” of the family but “uneasy lies the crown” on her head.  Cox plays the role like a coil wound up tight waiting to burst at any time.  Rhodes is a marvel as the sister not to be underestimated, because just as soon as you think she’s easy to read, she lashes out in another direction altogether.  And Langton is super as the sister who laughs and loves too easily on the outside but is a deeply unhappy person within.  All three first-rate!
    
    I highly recommend this show as it’s not to be missed.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS

Friday, April 13, 2018

White Rabbit Red Rabbit—Artists Rep—SW Portland




All the Stage is a World

     This unusual production is written by Nassim Soleimanpour and curated by Jerry Tischleder, as part of the Frontier series.  It is playing at their space, 1515 SW Morrison St., through April 15th.  For more information, go to their site at www.artistsrep.org

     Can anyone guess when the moment of death begins?  That’s easy, when we’re born.  So, the question should be, not so much when we are going to die, but how we live our life up to that moment.  At what age were you when you realized that those alien people we called parents, were actually young like us at some point, meaning we would be like them someday?  At what age were you when you realized that not everybody thought and believed as you did, and that the world did not revolve around you?  And when did the specter of the thought of our own demise enter our brains?  Why is it, when we are Young, we are in such a hurry to be older and, when older, life is passing too quickly?  We certainly are strange creatures, aren’t we?!
     
But there is a way of living “forever.”  Also, of living different places and at different times and be different people.  How, you say?  Become a writer, of course.  Do not Dickens and Shakespeare continue living through their works and, as those works/characters inspire us as humans, to carry on that legacy for them?  “We are such stuff as dreams are made on…” and those fantasies can carry us anywhere we desire—the ultimate freedom.
     
And now to the play.  Oops, really can’t tell you anything about it (except that the above thoughts of mine do interact, I believe, with part of his purpose).  The reason being…well, I’ll just let the media release speak for itself:
“The play you’re about to see is sealed inside an envelope.  The actor about to perform will never have seen it.  In fact, there is a new actor every performance and they’ve only been told what is absolutely necessary.  Join the actors and LEAP!”
     
And so, for an hour+, you will be taken on a journey of heart, mind and soul. The performers are all stellar, having seen them many times before onstage.  They are:  Susannah Mars, John San Nicolas, Ayanna Berkshire and Darius Pierce.  The night I saw it, the actor was Mars.  She did extremely well in holding the audience captive and her experience as a singer and entertainer in intimate, as well as stage settings, was an asset for her.  She just recently knocked them dead in the musical, Scarlet, at Portland Playhouse and will, I’m sure, continue to Wow audiences!
     
If you have different impressions/thoughts/ideas after seeing this show, that’s as it should be.  A really good artist, like Soleimanpour, is always willing to share their works and allow it to speak through others as to its merits.  I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell then Dennis sent you.
--DJS

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Thanksgiving Play—Artists Rep—SW Portland


Journey From There To Here


     This World Premiere of Larissa FastHorse’s (Sicangu Lakota) revealing comedy is directed by Luan Schooler.  It is playing at their space, 1515 SW Morrison St., through April 29TH.  For more information, go to their site at www.artistsrep.org and check out their dynamic next season, as well.

     I wish I could say with some confidence that we’ve come a long way from that purported first Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims and Native Americans to this point, but I’d be lying if I did.  What should have been great strides are, instead, at best, baby steps.  Maybe that’s why any intelligent life in the universe has passed us by, as they observed our current “growth” and decided that we were still too infantile in our behavior and weren’t worth contacting!

     The author surprised me, pleasantly, in the way she handled the subject of the Rockwell-like image we have of the First Thanksgiving, as grappled with by some well-meaning educators onstage and some earnest children on video (those images are precious and, oh, so true, as I have witnessed such displays).  The four educators represent a microcosm of White America trying mightily to represent Native Americans in this complex dance but tripping over each other along the way.

     The purpose is this, that a schoolteacher has received a grant to present a play about the First Thanksgiving with elementary school kids.  The director of the piece is Logan (Sarah Lucht) who is sincere in her efforts, but may be over-intellectualizing them, to do the right thing, but is confronted, through the story, as to just what that would be.  Also, on hand, is her boyfriend, Jaxton (Michael O’Connell) a street-performer, probably ex-hippie, who senses he is in tune with the universe.  Logan hires a professional actress for the lead role (in a play yet to be written), Alicia (Claire Rigsby), who has practiced the art of simplicity to the nth degree.  And the final ingredient to this motley crew is Caden (Chris Harder), the researcher, who seems to see only the literal world of events and is extremely reluctant to forgo that position.

     These are the ingredients to the delicately seasoned stew, adding, of course, the video of school children, and a Native American female writer.  What could possibly happen when these elements are all mixed together.  But if I told you more, I would be a spoiler and so, suffice to say, the outcome is not expected but very satisfying, something to chew on.  A hint would be an old adage to be taken literally (which the character of Caden would appreciate), “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”
I thought at first that the author may have painted herself into a corner, as identity, cultural equality, history, et. al. are such deep subjects that, how would you conclude such an exploration of this.  But she does a remarkable job and the director has enhanced this by letting us see ourselves in these four characters and lets us ruminate on it.  Also, something that may not be obvious to much of the audience, is that the acting styles of the four individuals are actual acting stances that are valid in the theatre in creating art.  Having spent over forty years in the performing arts myself, I do recognize these types of artists.

     The actors are all spot-on in their performances and are at the top of their form!  And the addition of the videos of young performers was a stroke of genius.  I recommend this production.  If you do choose to see it, please tell then Dennis sent you.
--DJS

Friday, April 6, 2018

Don’t Stop Me Now—Live On Stage—NW Portland


The Agony of Success


     Don’t Stop Me Now:  The Freddie Mercury Experience is a one-woman songfest created and performed by Courtney Freed and directed by Isaac Lamb.  It is playing at the CoHo space, 2257 NW Raleigh St. (parking is a challenge in this area so plan your time accordingly) through April 8th.  For more information, go ot their site at www.liveonstage.us

     As Mercury and Freed seem to be strongly influenced by their Muses, as am I as a writer.  So, I will allow my Muse to express herself through me:  As I ponder the aftermath of this cabaret-style journey of artists searching for Love, Peace, Acceptance, Freedom, I am reminded of a Jules Phiffer (sp.?) cartoon of many years ago which has the first panel,  a lonely little man staring out and saying, I live in a house… and, as the scenario continues on through several panels, growing in words to living in a neighborhood…in a city…on a planet…etc. until it is just a series of dots/stars filling up the panel and the last caption reads, “…and if you love me, you’ll find me!”  That cartoon seems to possibly fit a message in this play.  Your take-away may be entirely different, which is as it should be.

     The jazz/blues setting of a type of speak-easy, perhaps, is wholly fitting for the atmosphere of this remarkable tragic story to be shared.  And it is supported by an equally remarkable band consisting of musical director/conductor/piano by David Saffert, with able support from Tom Goicoechea on drums, Bernardo Gomez on bass and the multi-talented Josh Gilbert on sax, flute and ukulele.  Some pretty complicate light cues are a huge asset to this production by designer, Jennifer Lin.  And Lamb is no stranger to music, either, as he is a very accomplished performer himself, as just witnessed in Portland Playhouse’s musical, “Scarlet.” 

     But the main attraction is Freed herself, who is a whirlwind of excitement as she travels through more than a dozen songs of Mercury’s, lead singer of Queen, as he travels, through Freed’s extraordinary vocal range, the “road[s] not taken.”  He seemed to have experienced it all, drugs, booze, and sex with multiple partners of both genders.  And his musical talents never wavered but seemed to grow with these experiences.  The tragic end was from Aids but his legend and legacy only grew and Freed is an amazing translator of this.  But was he running toward something, or away, or both?  And, as any great artist would do, I’m sure Freed has reached deep within herself, her own story, and dipped her artistic pallet infused with her own blood, to enact the “…Mercury Experience.”  To do justice to her I would check out her websites www.courtneyfreed.com and www.courtneyfreedmusic.com to get the full range of her talents and, of course, see this show.

     Also, as an added bonus, I got the rose she threw to the audience which I will treasure, as a token for my Muse to keep on writing.  Obviously, I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS

Monday, March 26, 2018

The Mermaid Hour—Milagro—SE Portland




Photo by Russell J. Young
The Gender Issue

    This production of a World Premiere is written by David Valdes Greenwood and directed by Sacha Reich.  It is playing at the Milagro space, 525 SE Stark St., through April 14th.  For more information, go to their site at www.milagro.org

    God must have had an extremely delicate and difficult job when creating.  Observe the intricate make-up of all living things, from the massive inner structures of giant beast, to the miniature make-up of cell creatures…to the plant life, birds and fishes…and finally to the complex labyrinth of human beings—body, mind and issues of identity and sexuality, which seems to dominate the news today.  The Bard has said, “we are such stuff as dreams are made on…” and those dreams should be of happiness, not nightmares!

    A “mermaid hour” is that magic time between the transformation from fish to human (and back again) when both aspects of one’s being can be fully appreciated…and so, this idea relates to trans individuals, those who may have the outer body of one sex but the inner longings of the opposite sex.  Keep in mind that we all have had gender identity issues of some sort.  Most of us grew up with Moms telling girls to wear dresses and play with dolls, and Dads nudging boys into their roles as sportsmen.  Choices of gender issues are taken away from children and we feel we must comply with them.  I applaud those willing to break the mold and fly (or swim) free!

    The story is chocked full of ideas which could easily be overwhelming but in the author’s artistic hands, have been streamlined to some extent, for a clearer understanding of the issues.  We have a family, consisting of Bird (Jed Arkley), an optimistic skeptic, and his wife, Pilar (Nelda Reyes), a nurturing Mom, who are the parents of a 12-year-old trans girl, Violet (Jaryn Lasentia), and wants to get hormone suppression shots so that she can pursue her natural instincts and become a woman.  Her best, most intimate friend, is a gay male, Jacob (Kai Hynes).  But his mother, Mika (Barbie Wu), is not quite so accepting of the relationship between the two.  After some missteps, which could have led to tragedy, an understanding social worker, Crux (Michael Cavazos), gives them some guidance.  This is only a thumbnail sketch but some discoveries need to be left to the audience.

    This story, I’m sure, might be familiar territory to those searching for answers, both as Youth and parents, and could be considered an educational tool, as well.  There are many different locations for this tale but are solved with some clever lighting (designer, Kim Williams) and a very savvy director, who understands the subject matter and has a very talented cast.  The most illuminating part of the play for me was the long monologues, very naturalistically delivered by the father (Arkley), when he talks of how his boy changed one day at a baseball game from a son to daughter.  Very poignant.  In fact, the whole cast is super, all giving revealing and believable performances, especially (as mentioned) Arkley, and Lasentia, in the key role as the daughter.

    A final thought—in our Constitution it begins with “We, the People…” a phrase that seems to have been forgotten in recent months.  It does not add, except for people of color, or other cultures, or religious beliefs or trans, et. al.  That item has been trampled upon recently by the powers that be, and it is about time that our future generation, The Youth, are currently the models of what this country could be and, I believe, will be soon.  “Bless the Beasts and Children!”

    I highly recommend this play.  If you do see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The White Hound of the North—The Steep and Thorny Way to Heaven—SE Portland

A Land Beyond…Beyond


     This imaginative tale of folklore is devised and directed by Megan Skye Hale with music supervision and lighting design by Myrrh Larsen.  It is playing at their space at SE 2nd and Hawthorne through March 24th.  For more information, go to their site at www.thesteepandthornywaytoheaven.com

     This is a fairy tale for adults or, better yet, the child still inside the adult.  It draws it’s magic and charm from legends passed down for generations, of a world that once was…or is yet to be.  It, like all fairy tales, is immersed in lessons for behavior, coated liberally with the magic and music of the spheres.  And does such a place really exist?  John Ford famously said that when Facts and Legend conflict, believe the Legend, as it’s so much more interesting.  I pity those who can only see with their eyes.  A writer once said to a student, who was struggling with creating a story, to dip his pen into his heart and write with blood, as that is where imagination lies.

     This story has a fluidity, an organic feel, that floats in and out of your consciousness, like the final wisps of a dream, just before you awaken.  It is told with no dialogue, leaving the innards of the tale for you to muse on.  Dance-like movements flutter all about you, as if wild birds were seeking your attention and then whoosh, they are gone again.  It is a story of transformation, of a place beyond…beyond and yet, as close as your reach.

     The story, as such, seems to be of a fairyland where anything is possible.  But, as it often happens, our heroine, the Princess (Peyton McCandless), feels there is something more out there, a longing for…what.  She encounters a White Hound (Zed Jones), seemingly out of place in her known world.  They connect but his homeland is in another realm and so he must leave.  Will she follow?

     Some chance meetings, and kindness from her toward the Crow Witch (Wynee Hu), and she is rewarded with three gifts that she will take on her journey.  She is given a comb, a pair of scissors, and a horn and, although not informed on how they will help her, she senses she will know when the time comes.  His world is strange to her but her love for him drives her forward.  His mother, the Queen (Elizabeth Neal), keeps them at bay until the Princess realizes how to use her gifts.  More I cannot tell you without divulging secrets.


     The rest of the cast playing various creatures, are Kirsten Webb, Emily Hyde and Rega Lupo.  And the music, which I loved, musical curation by Myrrh Larsen, reminded me very much of Irish and American folk music and was an intricate part of the story.  The actors, all very concentrated in their portrayals, added to the believability of the tale.  Hale has another success on her hands, as she delicately leads us into another world and, with gentle persuasion, we are transported for an hour or so away from the turmoil of imposing reality and gentled into a semi-slumber to recharge our batteries.
    

     I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Scarlet—Portland Playhouse—NE Portland


Sunlight and Shadows


     This musical is adapted from the classic novel, “The Scarlet Letter,” for the stage by Michelle Horgen, directed by Brian Weaver and Jessica Wallenfels and musical direction by Eric Nordin.  It is playing at their newly renovated space, 602 NE Prescott St. (free parking lot 2 blocks North on 6th), through April 1st.  For more information, go to their site at www.portlandplayhouse.org or call 503-488-5822.

     The smothering atmosphere of 1600’s, Puritan New England, before the actual birthing of the USA, has changed considerably since then…or has it?  Women’s rights were virtually non-existent at that time, religion was the guiding force in public and private lives (note the infamous Salem Witch Trials came from this period), and adultery was a crime of the highest order.

     Jump ahead almost 400 years and women are still struggling for their rightful place in society; religion is still a continuous issue in many parts of this country, as well as the world, as wars have been fought over it there; and, although promiscuity seems to be widely acknowledged as a life style, having a child out of wedlock is still frowned upon.  In other words, we still have “a long way [to go], baby!”

     Hester (Rebecca Teran) arrives fresh in the new world from England with high hopes and dreams of a life of freedom.  She has come ahead of her husband, Roger (Darius Pierce), who is to join her later.  This is somewhat disconcerting to the populace but they accepted it.  The Governor, Richard (Del Lewis), seems like a fair man and she is set up in a cottage in the forest by Samuel (“ranney”), best friends with the spiritual leader of the town, Rev. Dimmsdale (Isaac Lamb), both single men.
She easily makes friends with other women in the town, including some young ladies, Clara (Rachel Lewis) and Sarah (Dana Green) and her husband, Robert (Don Kenneth Mason), as well as a young man of courting age, Elias (John Kish).  But probably her best pal, both being outspoken, is Anne (Susannah Mars).  Others in the community are Mme.’s Shepard (Tina Mascaro), Dudley (Kayla Kelly), and Martin (Liza Jensen).  There is also the town Jailor (Maxwell Rochette), as well as the children, Abigail (Lauren Clark) and Zia Murphy.  And, finally, the beautiful outcome of the ugly, branded letter Hester must wear, Pearl (Rainbows, Eva Hudson Leoniak).

     The story follows much of the book but being told in song and music, it must be seen/heard to be fully appreciated.  The songs definitely accented the story, and all of them have merit, from the rousing, “Before You Fall…” by Samuel and the sailors, to the final hymn of life, “Breath,” by the ladies.  Some of my favorites, all in the second act, were the joyous, “Our Game of Two” (Hester and Pearl); the touching songs by Pearl, “O Papa” and “Sleep My Angel;” the sad, “A Life Most Ordinary,” by Roger; and the powerful, “Call Me a Witch,” by Anne, which only Mars could knock out of the park!

     This is one hell-of-a-show by Horgen!  It has Broadway-bound written all over it!  Weaver and Wallenfels have staged this complex show on a mostly bare stage with some fast set changes, inventive blocking, a sterling cast and some clever lighting (Daniel Meeker).  And many kudos go to Nordin, as music director and pianist, as well as his partners in the band, Alan Juza/Ann van Bever and Dale Tolliver.  All exceptional!

     The cast is led by veterans of the Portland stages, Lamb, Pierce and Mars, all at the top of their game.  And, boy, does Mars know how to belt, I’m surprised the roof held up.  The young ladies, Lewis and Green, were in fine voice, as were the fellows, Lewis and “ranney.”  Rainbows, as Pearl, was a true find in a difficult role but she was a charmer and perfect for the role!  And Teran, as the lead, was extraordinary!  She touched your heart both in acting and singing.  I couldn’t imagine anyone else in the role (Broadway, are you listening?).  This play should follow what should be the inevitable steps to The Great White Way, as it is sure to be a hit!
Obviously, 

     I highly recommend this production!  If you do see it, please tell then Dennis sent you.
--DJS

She Is Fierce—Enso Theatre—SE Portland



“Time’s Up!”

     The production is adapted from plays by Annemarie de Bruijn and Maaike Bergstra and directed by Joellen Sweeney.  It is playing at the Shoebox Theatre, 2110 SE 10th Ave., through March 31st.  For more information, go to their site at www.ensotheatre.com

     This play is very timely, especially with the Woman’s Movement of today, demanding respect and equality, among other things, which is long overdue.  Gender, as well as religion, cultural, sexual orientation, et. al., should never have been an issue at all.  But what it does prove is that a white, male-dominated society doesn’t work.  Those sorts of individuals can be abusive, at worst, and pedestrian, at best.  “Times, they are a-changin’.”

     A woman’s place in society, of those by-gone ages, was precarious at best.  It seemed she had two roles in life—as an amusement for men and to birth children (preferably males), and to care for them, of course.  She was not allowed to inherit, own property, have a meaningful job or have any role in governing of nothing except the household.  What she was expected to do was get married as soon as possible, with a large dowry, and to covet the highest position she could achieve in a man (arranged marriages were popular at the time, too).  Love really had nothing to do with it.

And so, in this play, we are faced with the dilemma of Lady Anne (Sam Bangs) in the realm of Richard III (voice of Tim Fodge), who ends up at her husband’s funeral, being wooed by this misshapen excuse for a man, who had already killed her husband, and his father.  Of course, she’ll scratch his eyes out.  Wrong.  Keep in mind, she is a woman without any rights or future now.  Add to the fact that she feels the best revenge might be to get him to love her, then break his heart.  But that is assuming, of course, that Richard, that silver-tongued devil, is sincere in his platitudes toward her.  “And, therein, lies the rub.”

     Margaret (Sam Reiter), mother-in-law of Edward, Anne’s first husband, knows the conflict all too well.  After all, Richard killed Edward and then his own brothers and two male children, cousins, to secure his right to the throne, confounding even his own Mum, the Duchess of York (Paige Rogers), so what’s a mother to do but love him.  I’m reminded of another mother in literature that faced a similar problem.  Her name was Rosemary and when she was confronted with the fact that she had been raped by the devil to sire his offspring, she chose to embrace that position of motherhood.  Those instincts run deep in spite of everything.

     Even her younger self (Hannah Hogan) is aware of these restrictions, even when she marries her first husband, Edward, the King, that she needs to hang on to her position or be doomed.  And waiting in the wings is another of Richard’s fancies, his cousin, the Duchess (Paige Rogers).  This does not mean she doesn’t have a voice, it just means it must be muted, for now, but the time has arrived when this saga can be exposed as a warning to future generations now!

     The story is played out on sand and it is my observation that it could represent the sands of times as they cross the ages, or the sands of a primeval beach, as Mankind supposedly evolved from the ocean.  Anyway, interesting addition to the production.  Also, this is very movement/dance oriented, an organic experience, and uses a scrim to project various scenes from the tale, and there is some pre-show, lobby material to enhance one’s immersion in it.

     Sweeney has garnered a powerful cast that, indeed, is “Fierce” in their presentation!  It is timely, as mentioned, and definitely worth seeing.  I recommend this production.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS

Monday, March 12, 2018

Death and the Maiden—Bag & Baggage—Hillsboro, OR


                                                     The “Master” Race


     Genocide has probably been around on this Earth, in one form or another, to wipe out and/or demean a race of people, since the beginning of Man.  Certainly Hitler and his boys were prime examples of that during the last century but they have had lots of imitators before and since then, e.g. the Crusades; our treatment of Native Americans and African-Americans; and continuous examples in the Middle-East, Africa, South America and Asia.  And the results of many of these efforts—cities reduced to rubble, death of many thousands of innocents, and resentment of other nations, as well as history.  What a prize!  As the folk song goes, “…when will they ever learn…?”

     This play gives us a microcosm of a result of these two factions meeting some years later in the guise of just three characters.  There is the alleged victim, Paulina (Mandana Khoshnevisan), a woman, still living in Chile, who was caught up in such an action fifteen years earlier, and is still haunted by the memories, especially the Schubert piece, “Death and the Maiden,” the interrogator would play during her torturing.  Although, blind-folded, she swears she would know him by his music and his voice.

     Her husband, Gerardo (Nathan Dunkin), is currently a lawyer and on a commission to seek out victims of these atrocities and, perhaps, the perpetrators, as well, so that Justice can be served.  And the third member of this odd tribunal, is Dr. Miranda (Anthony Green), the alleged interrogator, who is now living a comfortable lifestyle by the seashore, with his family, who denies any involvement with the ruling party at the time.  When these three factions come together, explosions must follow, and they do, but it will be up to you to see it to discover the outcome.

     The interesting part of this play, although it does go into some descriptions of what happened, it raises a larger question—what to do about it and where does the Truth lie?  These participants represent, in a broad sense, a victim, a victimizer, and an arbitrator, of sorts.  Questions raised are, would the victim be so traumatized by her experiences that, after such a long passage of time, could she be accurate as to her memories?  Also, how would she feel if faced with this monster?  What kind of fate would she want to see him get?  Also, a loved one, how should/would they react if they came across such a beast?  And how does such a brute justify his actions?  What kind of impartial justice could there be in such a situation?  Ponder these when observing/experiencing this production.

     Greer, a very fine actor in her own right, is now on the other side of the “boards” and gets a chance to flex even more her artistic muscles.  So, when choosing a piece to direct, it is not surprising she would prefer one that concentrated on character studies.  She has chosen her cast very well and they are all completely convincing.  What is good to see is that they all play it with such sincerity, that one is left with doubts, at times, as to who is telling the truth and what possible outcomes could there be?  Tyler Buswell has a nice open set which gives the actors a lot of room to explore.

     Khoshnevisan is great at giving us a person who appears both conflicted at times, bordering sanity, and being driven with a purpose in mind, leaving you to wonder as to her state.  Dunkin and Green I have reviewed many times before and are always an asset to a production, both excellent here.  They also show that these characters are not just black and white but various shades of gray, keeping one guessing as to their possible actions, a tribute to their acting, as well as the directing.

     I recommend this production, especially for the acting and directing but, keep in mind, it involves very adult situation.  If you do choose to see it, please tell the Dennis sent you.
--DJS

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Between Riverside and Crazy—Artists Rep—SW Portland




“Windmills of Your Mind”

    This searing drama is written by Stephen Adly Guirgis and directed by Adriana Baer.  It is playing at their space, 1515 SW Morrison St., through April 1st.  For more information, go to their site at                                                                                                                    www.artistsrep.org

     It is said that a person has three secrets.  There is the one that you share only with your best friend; the second one you keep to yourself; and the third one is hidden even from you.  What we have in this story, in part, are secrets within secrets, and stories within stories and we discover, as the characters do, that we are forced to peel back the layers, like an onion (tears included), until we find the core of ourselves and then we are set free.

     At the outset this is a normal, dysfunctional “family” (yes, I realize that is an oxymoron but it does seem to fit this grouping).  There is “Pops” (Kevin Jones), the head of the clan, a retired ex-cop and a bit of a constant tippler and a junk food addict, who rules with an iron fist, occasionally encased in a velvet glove.  Then there is the flighty son, Junior (Bobby Bermea), who has a short temper and doesn’t seem to have any solid job.  There is also living in the household, Junior’s girlfriend, Lulu (Julana Torres), who loves him (and “Pops”) unconditionally, but isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer.  And the final relative of the house is the cheerful, Oswaldo (Illya Torres-Garner), a relative, who is on a bit of a fitness kick.

     Other members that weave into this extended fabric of a family are his old friend and co-worker, a detective, Audrey (Val Landrum), who appears to have been trained by “Pops” as a rookie cop and has great affection for him.  Also, there is Dave (Ben Newman), also a co-worker of his, now rising in the ranks to a Lieutenant and has ambitions to soar even higher.  And, finally, there is the Church Lady (Ayanna Berkshire), whose congregation ministered to his deceased wife and now appears to be trying to save him, but her methods are a bit unorthodox, to say the least.  And so, as the story progresses, the masks are stripped away and they are exposed to the elements to see if they can adapt to changes, evolve with them, or perish.

     Really can’t tell you any more, as revelations come fast and furious and it’s up to an audience to discover them.  Baer has cast this play perfectly and her pacing is spot on, as she hits you hard and fast at times, and then relaxes a bit for some of the more subtle moments.  And Jones is a master at performing (and directing) and this is a dynamite role for him.  He is a powerhouse that can’t be tamed.  The rest of the cast, too, all seasoned professionals, have their time in the sun onstage and they burst with energy when they command the boards.

     I recommend this production, especially for the powerful performances.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Stage Kiss—Twilight Theater Company—N. Portland


“All the World’s a Stage…”


     This rather odd comedy is written by Sarah Ruhl and directed by Matt Gibson.  It is playing at their space, 7515 N. Brandon Ave., (just off Lombard), through March 25th.  (There is a free church parking lot across the street that can be used.)  For more information, go to their site at www.twilighttheatercompany.org

     The above caption is more than fitting for the premise of this play.  We are all truly different people depending on circumstances.  In this case “Life imitates Art…,” or is it the other way around?!  We are the sum total of a soul, genes, rearing and contacts as we mature.  But when you add the layer of a performing artist to this mix, you’ve just opened a whole other can of worms, as the characters they portray onstage add another layer of reality to an already complicated life, as in this case.

     As to who’s who and what’s what in the plot, if put in writing, would just add more confusion.  So, I will try to give a short sketch of the basics.  It seems that He (Rob Kimmelman) and She (Kristen Paige) are former lovers from Youth and are now trying out to play lovers in a play with a respected Director (Christopher Ruggles) and his trusty sidekick, Kevin (Jason Fox).  She has a husband, Harrison (Tony Domingue), and a daughter, Angela (Jayne Ruppert), now.  He has a lover living with him, Laurie (Amanda Clark), so those factors complicate things a bit as to any rekindling of a romance between He and She.  But then, there is the play, albeit a campy soap opera, in which they can go beyond, perhaps, that “stage kiss.”

     Needless to say, it does get messy when stage roles mix with real life and can be hard to distinguish between the two.  (A side note—this really does often happen in the theatre/film world, as well, where intense relationships onstage can be intense off-stage, too.)  Also, these same seven actors portray other characters in the play(s) as well, probably deliberate, and that adds even more layers to the plot.  Really can’t tell you more without giving away plot devices and, perhaps, confusing you even more as to the interweaving in the stories.

     This is not Ruhl at her best.  The play needs editing, especially in the first act, as the repetition gets tiresome after a while.  And the blending of camp humor in the first act and some serious moments in the second act are an uneasy mix at best.  Also, the constant scenery changes got to be annoying, as if she was writing for TV or a film.  There is a rather nice ending, albeit a bit far-fetched, but the overall story needs some tightening, although a good idea.  The funniest bit being a silent, sight gag with Clark, who is a master of deadpan comedy.    I won’t give it away but you’ll know it when it happens.

Gibson is a terrific comedy director and he does his best with this material and a very able cast.  All the actors are right for the roles they play, especially the two leads.  And I particularly liked the musical interludes.  Domingue, with his commanding voice and Clark, with her big eyes and Keaton-like expressions, both having been in plays here before, stand out in the supporting cast.

     I marginally recommend this show because of a very talented cast and director.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS

Friday, March 9, 2018

Our Mother’s Brief Affair—Triangle Productions!—NE Portland




“To Thine Own Self Be True…”

     The NW Premiere of this production is written by Richard Greenberg and directed by Donald Horn.  It is playing at their space in The Sanctuary, 1785 NE Sandy Blvd., through March 31st.  (Free parking to the West of the building.)  For more information, go to their site, www.trianglepro.org or call 503-239-5919.

     This above sentiment is uttered by a duplicitous character in “Hamlet.”  In essence, what you see is not always what you get.  A person can be of two natures, perhaps, or more.  And one of the Bard’s most famous speeches, “All the world’s a stage…” the person espousing those lines is a very morose character saying, perhaps, out of a weed-patch, sometimes a blossom flowers.

     Greenberg’s characters in “Three Days of Rain” are, likewise, all over the map in terms of who they really are and what really happened, as in this play, too.  True, we are, indeed, many different personas to many different people but you assume that somewhere the real you exists…or should we assume even that?!

     The play is simply staged, only two benches, but that works, as the story is all over the map in time and space and back again.  Also, the author’s words and narrative are not so apt to get lost in the trappings of fancy settings.  And so, we are placed in a netherworld, created by the characters, to explore, perhaps, the meaning of Truth and Reality.

     I can’t tell you much of the story because a great deal of it is up to an audience to discover, as it deals with, as mentioned, what is actual and not.  It seems that Anna (Michelle Maida) is in a NYC hospital, possibly on her last legs, and is being visited by her son, Seth (Alex Fuchs), who is an obit writer for a newspaper, and her somewhat, estranged daughter, Abby (Deanna Wells), who lives in CA.  Their mother seems prone to hallucinations of imagined or actual events in her life and with such meanderings, are subject to scrutiny as to fact or fiction.

     The major story of her shadows is of a brief, affair with a gentleman called Phil (Twig Webster), who seems to be good for her.  And like many budding relationships, they wish to unburden themselves to the other, in order to show sincerity, of buried secrets, akin to what her kids are discovering about their mother.  But Phil has a secret, too, that may be much more dangerous.  Through these exchanges, long hidden feelings are exposed, but we are still left with who are we really when all the veils have been whisked away?  Who is that Great and Powerful person behind the curtain?!

     You will have to see it for yourself to discover the answers…and even then, there might be even more questions.  Horn is at his best when digging into characters, and thus, the actors’ psyches, as he does here.  And he has a very smart cast to work with.  They are all in top form and keep you guessing, as it should be with any mystery.  All the actors fit their roles to a tee, and it is good to see Webster again on the stage after such a long absence.  Obvious to see that he still has the “right stuff” and hope to see more of him onstage in the future.
I recommend this show.  
     If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Experience Theatre Project—Cady Building—Beaverton, OR


    “Three Blind Mice”


     This classic mystery by Agatha Christie is directed by Alisa Stewart and playing at the Cady bldg., 12604 SW Farmington Rd., through March 25th.  For more information, go to their site at
www.experiencetheatreproject.org or call 844-387-7469.

     Christie was fond of nursey rhymes as she used them as clues in more than one of her stories, e. g. “Hickory, Dickory, Dock” or “Pocketful of Rye.”  Usually they were used as clues to the killer and/or his/her/they’re motives and often connecting to childhood, as it does in this tale.  This play has never been filmed as, according to her directions, it couldn’t be until the play had run its course.  Over 60 years later, it’s still running!

     The time is 1952 at a rural, county guest house run by the Ralstons’, Mollie (Carlyn Blount) and her newly married husband, Giles (Nick D’Ettorre).  They have a smattering of guests for their opening, including the flitting, Mr. Wren (Murren Kennedy), the sarcastic, Mrs. Boyle (Janice Moss), the manly socialist, Miss Casewell (Amber Bogdewiecz), the very proper, Major Metcalf (Steve Garrison), a military man, the stranded motorist, the bouncy Italian, Mr. Paravicini (Brian Reed), and the Law, Sergeant Trotter (James Luster), seeking a killer of a previous crime.

     It is a dark and story time and, in fact, these people are snow-bound and cut off from the rest of the world, a perfect time and place for a murder mystery.  Also, understand, all these folks have secrets and not everything or everyone may be truthful as to their knowledge of a horrendous crime that happened some years before to three orphans at a nearby farm.  More I cannot tell you without giving away plot devices but, believe me, it’s a corker!

     Now, that being said, the story is not really the uniqueness to this production.  It is in the style in which it’s presented.  The audience (limited to about 35, I believe) is seated within the set in which the actors are playing!  The audience is arranged, mostly around the sides of this large room, while the actors are moving/seated within inches of them.  This is part of the “immersive” experience this group has as their signature.  (This would be also a great setting/immersive experience for Christie’s “Ten Little Indians,”…just a thought).

     The director and actors must have had a real headache trying to block this show around audience members, as well as making sure all could see and hear.  Also, it was performed in natural lighting, which added to the sense of reality.  The cast was spot-on in their characters and I give them and the Director high marks for achieving success for such a difficult project.

     I highly recommend this show as it is a one-of-a-kind experience.  They have extended the run because of sellout crowds, so get your tickets soon.  A warning, though, it is only street parking in a very busy part of town, so plan your time accordingly.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS








Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Sense and Sensibility—OSF—Ashland, OR


Emily Ota, Armando McClain, Nancy Rodriguez and Kate Mulligan
Photo by Jenny Graham
The Pursuit of Happiness


     This classic novel by Jane Austen is adapted for the stage by Kate Hamill and directed by Hana S. Sharif.  It is playing at the Bowmer Theatre at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, OR, in repertory, through October.  For more information, go to their site at www.osfashland.org

     “Happiness” can have a variety of meanings to many different people.  One common element, though, is the ability to control your own destiny.  During the Age of Austen, the Bronte sisters, et. al., women had no power, unable to own or inherit property, no position in society except through a male (husband/relative), no choice as to a mate, and certainly discouraged from having a job, or even writing a novel.

     It was a patriarchal society and men were often idle, privileged, made the rules, and women regarded as little more than toys for the men, or as a necessary distraction for bearing, preferably male, heirs.  On the surface, a lot seems to have changed since then, or been buried, and underneath the male persona of acceptance to this new order, there still appears to be a seething cauldron of resentment in the shifting of the roles.  But, fellows, “times, they are a-changin.’”  Best accept it, as it’ll make the world a more compassionate place, which is sorely needed now!

     At the beginning of the play, the Dashwood’s are faced with a rather disagreeable set of circumstances.  Their father has been placed in the unfortunate position of dying on them and leaving, as is customary, his property and fortunes to his rather, easily manipulated, stepson, John (Brent Hinkley) with his manipulative wife, Fanny (Amy Newman).  She insists that his father’s faithful wife (Kate Mulligan) and three daughters, Elinor (Nancy Rodriguez), the eldest and more studious one; the middle child, Marianne (Emily Ota), the man-attractor; and Margaret (Samantha Miller), the youngest and most vulnerable, be ousted from the family estate with little resources.
They do find help and some solace with Sir John Middleton (Michael J. Hume), a distant relative to the Dashwood’s, and his wife, Lady Middleton (Lauren Modica) and his mother-in-law, Mrs. Jennings (K. T. Vogt).  Not only is it humiliating to be thrown to the wolves but the town gossips of the idle rich have nothing better to do than fuel the fires by constantly stirring the ashes.  There is only one out for them and that is to find a sympathetic man who would take a woman who has no dowry.

     And there are plenty of these dandies around.  There is the more mature, but dashing, Colonel Brandon (Kevin Kenerly); a gentleman caller, Edward Ferrars (Armando McClain); and John Willoughby (Nate Cheeseman), a rather pleasant man, but they all seem attracted to the “pretty” one, Marianne.  Such seems to be the nature of a man, more interested in the turn of the ankle, than the contents of the head and heart.  To discover the outcome, you’ll have to see it for yourself.
This was written to address a serious subject of a woman’s rights versus male dominance but done with gentle humor, a comedy of manners, if you will.  By Act II some of Austen’s original intent came through, but most of the first Act, and some of the second, was done with a farcical and even, almost vaudevillian, style which the very good film of this story, with Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson, did not adopt and, I believe, was never intended by the novel’s author.  To be fair, though, the audience lapped it up and the actors played it with gleeful gusto.

     That being said, the actors are very capable in their endeavors, as was the director (although, as mentioned, I believe, misplaced in the interpretation).  But the scenic design (Collette Pollard) was very effective in look and as an efficient playing area, and the costumes (Fabio Toblini) were beautiful.

     I recommend this show for the production values and the depiction of the story when it is more subdued.  If you do see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

--DJS

Destiny of Desire—OSF—Ashland, OR


   
Ella Saldana North (right), Adriana Sevahn Nichols
Photo by Jenny Graham
 
How the Other Half Lives

   This imaginative play is written by Karen Zacarís and directed by José Luis Valenzuela with music by Rosino Serrano.  It is playing at the Bowmer Theatre at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, in repertory, through mid- July.  For more information, go to their site at www.osfashland.org

     This planet is host to a variety of living creatures and they all seem to have a pecking order.  The most obvious in the human race is rich and poor.  The idle Rich are usually pictured as arrogant beasts who crave Power and ignore those less fortunate—the Black hats.  The Poor are usually portrayed as good-hearted and hard-working—the White hats.  Of course, these perceptions will vary depending on who’s doing the viewing.

     One popular political solution is to erect walls to keep out the “undesirables,” those “unwashed masses.”  Bad idea.  Another is to build bridges to embrace all cultures.  Good idea.  In this story the division between classes is examined but in a very bizarre way.  Looking at serious matters through crossed-eyes can reveal facts in a new light.  Or, in giggleas est veritas (loosely, in laughter there is truth).

     On one hand, we have the filthy rich, the Castillo family, all bravado and glitter.  In the other corner, we have the poor, represented by Del Rio family, honest farmers and maids, feeding and cleaning for the powers-that-be, as well as some doctors and nurses, trying to make things better for those less fortunate.  It is inevitable in this volatile mix that something is bound to erupt.
The tale is a complicated one and so I can only give you a thumb-mail sketch of the basics.  It seems that one dark and stormy night two mothers are at the same hospital, giving birth to daughters.  One is Fabiola (Vilma Silva) of the my-s**t-doesn’t-stink family, the Castillo’s, head master, Armando (Armando Durán).  The other is of their maid, Hortencia (Adriana Sevahn Nichols), of the farming clan, the Del Rio’s, chief farmer, Ernesto (Eddie Lopez).  The elite baby is weak, perhaps dying, the humble one, strong and so, with the inducement of more monies for the hospital fund, the unscrupulous head doctor, Mendoza (Al Espinosa) switches the two babies, while Sister Sonia (Catherine Castellanos), the head nun and nurse looks on, disapprovingly.

     Jump some years later and the two girls are grown up now.  Victoria Del Rio (Ella Saldana North) is a charming young lady in her teens, who desires to be a doctor.  Likewise, is her counter-part, charming, Pilar Castillo (Esperanza America), who also has a good heart.  But it is inevitable that into every life some complications will arise.  The doctor also has a son, Diego (Fidel Gomez), that has followed in his footsteps into the medical profession.  Armando has a stepson, Sebastian (Edwardo Enrikez), who is estranged, but is a computer nerd and wants to catapult his father’s business, a casino, into the electronic age.  And, wouldn’t you know it, the two teenage girls eventually meet and become friends.  And then, you know what happens…but that would be telling, wouldn’t it?!

     Keep in mind, this is a musical, too, with outstanding accompaniment by the lone pianist, Juan Manuel Rivera Colón.  But the real charm of this piece is the style in which it’s performed.  It is in a popular style of video entertainment called telenovela (which I know nothing about).  But, from my perspective, it is performed with elements of the old-fashioned melodrama, soap opera, Vaudeville and Commedia dell’Arte with, as mentioned, a large dose of song and music.  And a couple of fairy tales thrown in, like Cinderella and Prince and the Pauper, for good measure.  It also comes complete with posing, double-takes, tableaus and liberal jabs at the establishment.

     You really do have to see it to enjoy it and I did.  Not everything is at it seems, and what you think you know, you don’t, and what is, probably isn’t…well, I think you get the idea.  The cast is wonderful, as is the director and music, and they certainly understand this medium.  I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.


Ashland Springs Hotel
I’ve managed to stay here, or at their other establishment 3 miles South of Ashland, Ashland Hills, every time I’ve come down for the last three seasons, which is twice a year.  The convenience of this Hotel (212 E. Main St.) is that it is right next door to OSF and has secured parking.  It is also walking distance to the downtown areas’ shops and restaurants and very close to the beautiful Lithia Park.  They have a very substantial complimentary breakfast in the mornings, consisting of scrambled eggs, red potatoes, muffins, bagels & toast, hot & cold cereals, fruit, and coffee, tea & juices.  They also have a very friendly and helpful staff.  I would highly recommend staying there or at their Hills location.  For more information, go to their site at www.AshlandSpringsHotel.com
--DJS

    

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Henry V—OSF—Ashland, OR


“...Sleeping Swords of War”

    This production was written by the Bard, W. Shakespeare, and directed by Rosa Joshi.  It is playing at the Thomas Theatre at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, in repertory, through October.  For more information, go to their site at www.osf.ashland.org

   “And now the spring is wound up tight.”  This is the sign of Henry’s times…and all eras of warlords.  The timeclock of the power mongers is being stretched to the max.  Conflict is inevitable in these situations and the coils are apt to burst.  Now is the time for the “sleeping swords” to awaken and sing their death dirge!

     Warfare is a private affair that only the profane understand.  Why do countries/peoples insist on putting innocence at bay and destroying civilizations?  It is beyond most mortals understanding and yet it happens all too frequently.  You only have to witness our present-day circumstances to see that it continues to multiply.  When will it end and Mankind embrace the prospect of compassion for all living things?!  A Creator must weep and intone, “look what they’ve done to my Song.”

     The characters in this “human comedy” are the King of England (and France, too, depending on your viewpoint), Henry V (Daniel José Molina).  He has since shed the shackles of his frivolous youth, as Hal,  as well as his rotund and endearing friend, Falstaff, and now must make do with “the winds of war.”  His adversary in this duel is the King of France, Charles VI (Rex Young) and his son, the Dauphin (Moses Villarama).

     Henry’s companions in this battle for men’s souls, include his ole cronies from the Falstaff era, Pistol (Kimberly Scott), a fellow whose tongue is long on wit but short on action; Bardolph (Robert Vincent Frank), a scalawag whose loose actions take a deadly turn; Nym (Shaun Taylor-Corbett), who may be dense as a cucumber but long on loyalty; and Boy (Jessica Ko), an innocent, seeking a “brave new world” even in “the cannon’s mouth.”

     There are other loyal subjects, too, the Lords that valiantly form an alliance with the King, like the Duke of Exeter (Tyrone Wilson), Henry’s uncle; the Duke of Bedford (Jeremey Gallardo), Henry’s brother; the Earl of Westmoreland (Christopher Salazar); and the Earl of Salisbury (Shyla Lefner), as well as countless soldiers and peasants on both sides.  And the women, too, the backbone of any Nation, like Mistress Quickly (Michele Mais), the proprietor of an alehouse, and the French Princess, Katherine, (Ko, again), who is the salve, for a while anyway, “to soothe the savage beast.”  These are the noble “band of brothers” that form the alliances for this never-ending story.  To experience this complicated but meaningful story, you must see it for yourself.

     Keep in mind this extraordinary crew of twelve actors play over forty roles in the Bard’s, perhaps, greatest play, of the histories and it certainly has the best monologue of this genre, the rousing, “St. Crispin’s Day” speech.  It also, for all it’s bravado displaying the “dogs of war,” gives both a grand panorama of nation building/destroying, as well as portraying a microcosm of both the common man, and the nobles involved, in less than a three-hour time span.  This production ranks (with Branagh’s excellent film of the same story) as the best interpretations of this epic tale, in my opinion!

     The story highlights both the glories of such ventures, such as the above-mentioned speech; to the smallest of gestures, when gloves are exchanged in the defense of honor; to deadly, personally painful examples being made to maintain discipline; and yet, a soft voice of a Lady, will make even the strongest of men kneel.  Such is the nature, too, of Warfare.  Joshi has done an amazing job piecing it all together into such a human fabric of our existence.  And her Cast is the thread that holds it all together.  She keeps it moving at a break-neck pace with the simplest of devices, and yet it never loses the gist of the story.  Kudos to her and her team!

     But, standing a notch above a stellar cast, is Molina, as Henry, having progressed through his “Hal” stages in the Henry IV’s, now has delivered the coup de grace in this final epic.  He is nothing short of terrific!  Also standing tall, too, is Scott, as Pistol, whose physical gestures gives credence to a sad, blustering and witty fellow who has no equal, an image of his own mind and making.  And Ko is terrific, in her three major portrayals, as the naïve Boy; as the elfin French princess; and the conflicted Montjoy, a messenger with a heart, all portrayals, spot on.  She is a treasure and makes those roles sparkle!

     It should be noted that, with all the artistic joy this production of the Henry trilogy brings, it is sad to report that G. Valmont Thomas, who portrayed Falstaff, one of the great comic characters in all of the Bard’s Canon, has passed on.  He was, as I observed, one of a kind in that role.  He will be sorely missed!


     I highly recommend this production.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them that Dennis sent you.


                                  The Black Sheep



     As followers of this blog probably already know, this is my favorite place in all of Ashland to eat and imbibe.  My friends and I (one a Brit) ate at least 3 meals here this trip.  Our orders ranged from the fish pie, to the pasty, to Mum’s Favorite Dinner on Sunday’s menu, to Irish Stew and Shepherd’s Pie with nary a bad morsel anywhere!  They also have homemade desserts and soups, also both excellent.  Their cuisine is of the British Isles, appropriate for a Shakespearean township, with a full bar and traditional Brit beers, too.  Throughout the week they also have entertainment at various times and they stay open late after the plays are over.  Clarinda, the owner, exudes warmth; Greg, the bar manager, treats you like an old friend; and Raquel, is a real charmer with a winning smile, are often there and are part of the reason I keep coming back…it feels like home, family.  In fact, it is their motto, a place “where you belong!”  I highly recommend this place and mention my name, if you go there, to one of them.  Check out their site, too:  www.theblacksheep.com and look for the red door.

--DJS